FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams made sure Arkansas didn’t stumble without starting quarterback Brandon Allen.
Collins and Williams combined to rush for 231 yards as Arkansas overcame an injury to Allen to defeat Southern Mississippi 24-3 on Saturday.
Allen injured his right shoulder on a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The sophomore, who took over as the starter this season for Tyler Wilson, went for X-rays following the run and was replaced by junior AJ Derby.
Williams had 116 yard rushing while Collins had 115 for the Razorbacks (3-0). Collins became the first freshman in Southeastern Conference history to top the 100-yard mark in his first three games, the first player overall since Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson in 2004.
The loss was the 15th straight for the Golden Eagles (0-3), the longest losing streak in the country.
Arkansas trailed in the fourth quarter last week against Samford before rallying for a 31-21 win. The Razorbacks never trailed on Saturday, but they had plenty to overcome in Allen’s absence.
The sophomore, who won the starting job in the spring, threw his first interception of the season in the first quarter. However, he responded on Arkansas’ next drive — scrambling for a 5-yard touchdown run on third and goal to put the Razorbacks up 7-0.
It was on that play, while diving into the end zone, that Allen injured his right shoulder. He spent the second half on the Razorbacks sideline, wearing street clothes and with his upper right arm tightly held against his body in a sling.
With Allen out, Arkansas struggled initially with Derby — who spent last season in junior college after transferring from Iowa. The Razorbacks ran the ball four straight times on Derby’s first drive, which ended on a punt after the junior fumbled a shotgun snap on third down.
Despite the opening, Southern Mississippi was unable to capitalize. The Golden Eagles, who entered the week last in the country in turnovers with 10, committed two more in the first half — a pair of interceptions thrown by quarterback Allan Bridgford.
Bridgford has now thrown seven interceptions this season, and he finished 17-of-33 passing for 133 yards. The senior was under pressure throughout the game from an Arkansas defense that finished with three sacks, all by senior defensive end Chris Smith.
Jalen Richard led Southern Mississippi with 94 yards rushing on 14 carries.
The Razorbacks had just 69 passing yards in the win, with Derby finishing 4-of-6 passing for 36 yards in an ultra-conservative effort without Allen — who was 2 of 5 for 33 yards before his injury.
They didn’t need the passing game in the second half — especially with Collins and Williams leading the way.
Williams put Arkansas up 17-3 with a 45-yard touchdown sprint in the third quarter, and Collins capped the scoring with a 7-yard scoring run on his own in the fourth.
It was just another week for Collins, who had 131 yard rushing in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette and topped that with a 172-yard effort against Samford last week.
And it was more than enough to overpower the struggling Golden Eagles on Saturday.